© 2017 Optical Society of America. In this work, we discuss the interest of using the indices of polarimetric purity (IPPs) as a criterion for the characterization and classification of depolarizing samples. We prove how differences in the depolarizing capability of samples, not seen by the commonly used depolarization index PΔ, are identified by the IPPs. The above-stated result is analyzed from a theoretical point of view and experimentally verified through a set of polarimetric measurements. We show how the approach presented here can be useful in easily synthetizing depolarizing samples with controlled depolarizing features, just by properly combining low-cost fully polarizing elements (such as linear retarders or polarizers).